HONOLULU – The Hawaii State Department of Education (DOE) today announced its approval of an updated version of the Pono Choices sexual health curriculum for optional use by middle schools, following changes made by its developers at the University of Hawaii-Manoa Center on Disability Studies (UHM-CDS).
Middle schools are required to provide a comprehensive, abstinence-based sexual health education that follows the requirements set forth in state law and Hawaii State Board of Education (BOE) policy, and aligns with the state's health education standards. However, principals may choose to implement any one of seven DOE approved sexual health curricula.
In June 2014, the DOE released a report detailing recommendations to improve its sexual health curriculum and halted the use of Pono Choices until UHM-CDS addressed the report. The recommendations were drawn from the work of a diverse Stakeholder Review Panel and public feedback. Recently, a revised version of Pono Choices was reviewed and approved.
The changes include: a revised definition of sex and the genital area; new emphasis on the dangers of unprotected anal sex; and elimination of confusing language about condom effectiveness rates. Additional changes were made to the script and materials for the required parent informational night to give parents more detailed information about the language and scenarios used in the curriculum. A table summarizing the 18 recommendations and related actions is provided below.
No student is required to participate in sexual health education. In June, the DOE strengthened the role of parents in this decision by changing its policy from an opt-out to an opt-in. Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, all parents must sign an opt-in form permitting their children to participate in sexual health education.
"For many families, sexual health education is a sensitive issue. The changes to the curriculum and parent night materials, along with our revised policy requiring parents to "opt-in" instead of "opt-out," strengthen their role in the process of sexual education," said Ronn Nozoe, Deputy Superintendent. "It is still necessary and important to provide students with a strong health education that helps them make informed choices about their futures."
Sexual health education information and requirements are listed in the DOE's Sexual Health Education Fact Sheet.
For more information on the stakeholder review panel on the Pono Choices curriculum, read the DOE's reports: Implementing Sexual Health Education: Background and Actions for Improvement and Stakeholder Panel Review: Pono Choices Curriculum, February – May 2014: Final Report.
|Subject||June 2014 Recommendation||UHM-CDS Changes to Curriculum|
|Use of the phrase "pono"||Revisit the meaning and appropriate use of the phrase "pono" through a discussion with cultural experts. ||The teacher script was updated to include a teacher's note about the phrase "pono," and more detailed information will be added to the curriculum manual overview.|
|Definition of "sex"||Update the text in the parent night script to match the exact wording in the curriculum regarding the definition of sex. |
The definition of sex was revised in the parent night script to be congruent with the curriculum.
|||Consider changing "definition of sex" slide to say "genitals or genital area" or "genitals or anus" instead of grouping "anus" under the term "genitals."||Throughout the curriculum, including the teacher script, PowerPoint slides, and student workbook, the word "genitals" is replaced with "genital area" when the anus is included. |
|Definition of "abstinence"|
Add clarifying phrase in the slide: "Abstinence is 100 percent effective at preventing STIs and pregnancies."
UHM-CDS noted that students are repeatedly informed through the 9.5 hours of the course that abstinence is the only 100 percent guaranteed way of preventing STIs and pregnancies. They also noted that adding more verbiage to the slide is not advised as the action of copying down important terms has been shown to already be a challenging task for many students.
Instead, a teacher's note was included in the teacher script that conveyed that abstinence is the only proven choice that can be 100 percent effective at pregnancy and STIs prevention.
|Teacher script: Definition of "sex"||Consider changing teachers' script to avoid grouping "anus" under the term "genitals." Potential changes: "on another person's genitals - which we just defined as including the penis, scrotum, vulva, vagina, labia, and clitoris – or anus" or "on another person's genitals or genital area - which we just defined as including the penis, scrotum, vulva, vagina, labia, clitoris or anus."||Throughout the curriculum, including the teacher script, PowerPoint slides, and student workbook, the word "genitals" is replaced with "genital area" when the anus is included.|
|Healthy, unhealthy or abusive relationships||Include the actual language from the relationship scenarios (include the same-sex scenarios) in the parent night materials for transparency.|
Several changes were made to the parent night presentation and script.
- Slides were added to the parent night presentation in each of the scenarios.
- The teacher will read the four scenarios as the slides are on the screen.
|Video: "Ty and Kiara Keeping it Pono"||Add content to the teacher script that engages the students in a conversation about what was missing from the video in terms of pregnancy prevention (condoms or other birth control) as well a reminder that birth control does not prevent against STIs.|
The teacher script was revised to include a direction for the teacher to engage the class in a conversation about what was "missing from the video" in terms of pregnancy prevention as well as remind the class that hormonal methods do not provide prevention against STIs.
|Birth control methods||Remove the language from the teachers' script noting that male condoms' "perfect use effectiveness rate is 98 percent."||The statement "perfect use effectiveness rate is 98 percent and the typical use effectiveness rate is 85 percent" was removed from the teacher script.|
|PPT slides: Understanding STIs||Consider changing "What is sex?" slide to say "mouth to genitals or genital area," "mouth to genitals or anus," or other change instead of grouping "anus" under the term "genitals."||Throughout the curriculum, including the teacher script, PowerPoint slides, and student workbook, the phrase "genitals" is replaced with "genital area" when the anus is included.|
|Other references characterizing the anus as a genital||Review, and amend if necessary, any language in the curriculum describing the anus as a genital to align with the other specific recommendations. ||Throughout the curriculum, including the teacher script, PowerPoint slides, and student workbook, the phrase "genitals" is replaced with "genital area" when the anus is included.|
|HIV: High-risk, low-risk, or no-risk||Add information to the curriculum to ensure students are sufficiently educated about the high risks associated with unprotected anal sex and the lower, but still significant risks involved with protected anal sex. |
As part of the activity where students identify whether specific activities are no risk, low risk, or high-risk, additional slides were added to discuss "unprotected anal sex," which is categorized as high-risk.
The Teacher script is updated to include a teacher's note conveying that the purpose of the activity is for students to understand that protected sex provides a relatively higher level of protection against HIV than unprotected sex.